Texas pro-life Republicans have proposed a law that makes abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy. Whatever your take on this law, there is another opportunity to protect all newborns and their families in the first days after birth, and one that generates widespread support.
An infant comes into the world with no other resources than its parents. She has no savings. She cannot take care of herself or feed herself. Its own central nervous system cannot even regulate itself outside of close bodily contact with its parents.
Yet America is the only country in the developed world that does not protect the first few weeks and months of a newborn’s life by ensuring that all parents, regardless of income or job, can be at home with their children during this critical time of healing, connection and development.
We do not have a national paid family leave policy. Companies also do not offer paid leave after childbirth; less than one in five workers has access to paid family leave from employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While some workers bundle vacation and sick days to cover time, 40% of workers and 80% of low-wage workers receive no paid leave for the birth of a child, according to Abt survey Associate.
Forty percent of all workers do not even have job protection after the birth of a child under the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to the Ministry of Labor, which means that an event already taxing physically, emotionally and financially can also be accompanied by a job. loss.
As a result, nearly one in four women return to work within two weeks of giving birth, according to a Labor Ministry survey. Unsurprisingly, this is associated with a host of drawbacks, including reduced rates of breastfeeding, one of the highest rates of neonatal mortality in the developed world, maternal depression and more.
Some states have taken steps to change this, adopting their own paid family leave policies over the past decade. Congress is also debating a paid vacation policy, which could be used for paid parental leave, built into its $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation program. (There are a lot of issues with the law, but allowing all parents to spend the first few weeks with their babies is not one of them.)
But Texas doesn’t have to wait for Washington to adopt its own statewide paid parental leave policy. Especially considering the good it would do for infants and their families.
Paid parental leave is associated with better outcomes for children, including lower infant mortality rates, longer breastfeeding duration and reduced low birth rates.
Economist Christopher Ruhm estimates that an additional 10 weeks of paid parental leave reduces neonatal deaths by 2.9%. It would save the lives of hundreds of babies every year. This would create more space for a healthy attachment and could increase the involvement of fathers later in their children’s lives.
Paid family leave also has economic advantages. A study of California’s Paid Family Leave Program, which provides eight weeks of paid leave for new parents and to care for family members, has been found to significantly reduce reliance on welfare, vouchers. power and debt.
A 2012 Rutgers study, “Pay Matters,” found that paid time off reduced a woman’s chance of using food stamps by 40% within a year of giving birth. Mothers are more likely to return to their same jobs and with higher wages, providing their families with greater financial independence.
And the policy is popular with voters and businesses. The vast majority of Americans, including the majority of Republicans, support a policy of paid parental leave, according to a Pew Research poll. Public paid parental leave programs have elicited overwhelmingly positive or neutral responses from the business community.
The main problem among conservatives tends to be cost. But paid parental leave can be structured as a relatively affordable policy. Childbirth is an isolated event, easy to document, and on average the need for parental leave occurs less than twice in a person’s life. A six to eight week paid parental leave policy in a booming state like Texas is certainly a feasible financial proposition.
Some Conservatives argue that people should save before having children, but this is out of touch. Nearly half of births in the United States are unplanned, according to the CDC. Even those that are planned, pregnancy is a difficult time to get rid of a nest egg.
All infants deserve the opportunity to spend the first weeks of their lives with their parents, regardless of the family they were born into, the financial situation of their family, or the business for which their parents work. It should be a well-established standard, deeply rooted in our culture, that all families can spend the first weeks of their new child’s life together. A fundamental right that we protect, not an aberration or an advantage for the company.
Paid family leave supports strong families, improves economic and health outcomes for infants and parents, and protects our most vulnerable. Pro-life Texans should be at the forefront of advocating for reform.
Abby M. McCloskey is the founder of McCloskey Policy LLC and a former campaign policy director for Howard Schultz and Rick Perry. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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